The world after Daniel Barenboim

The world after Daniel Barenboim


norman lebrecht

October 06, 2022

This morning’s newspapers have garnalded Daniel Barenboim with premature obituaries following his announcement of a neurological condition that will remove him from the stage for the coming months.

Our tip: don’t write him off. Barenboim is a fighter. If anyone can, he’ll beat this condition, just as his pal Zubin Mehta beat cancer.

More worrying is the picture of what the world might look like without Daniel Barenboim.

He is the only living classical musician with access to world leaders. He has been a hub in Berlin for a third of a century and, before that, a lynchpin in London, Paris and Chicago. He has played a role in Middle East peacemaking and was a leader in helping the music circuit out of its pandemic paralysis. Barenboim is a one-man, non-stop engine of musical productivity.

He has laid the ground for the future by nurturing such proteges as the conductors Thomas Guggeis and Lahav Shani, the cellist Kian Soltani and several more. Without Barenboim, the path for young talent will become that much thornier.

He has given offence with occasional abruptness, but he usually remembers to apologise. The commitment to music sometimes blinds him to other necessities. With Barenboim, it was always music first, last and centre stage.

Pray for his recovery. We need him back.

pictured: Barenboim with Shani


  • Kenny says:

    That is the world through roses colored glasses….

    Nothing about the music-making (about which the less said the better?).

  • erich says:

    Well said, Norman.

  • CSOA Insider says:

    We do indeed pray for the Maestro recovery and for seeing him back very soon. We surely miss him in Chicago, where things have gotten much, much worse since his departure.

    B’ezrat HaShem.

  • Emil says:

    I know Barenboim established the Barenboim-Said Akademie and the Divan orchestra, but is there any evidence that with him withdrawing “the path for young talent will become that much thornier”?

    The post mentions Shani, Guggeis, Soltani. Mentoring two conductors and a cellist over a 50-year career – thirty of them as head of one of the top 2 opera houses in Germany – is hardly evidence of a pipeline of talent. Is Barenboim really known as a mentor/teacher?

    • Eyal Braun says:

      Although he did not conduct in Israel since 2011, he was a mentor for countless Israeli young conductors and musicians. Many of the younger generation of the players of the IPO were trained in the Divan. And many prominent conductors of recent decades started as assistants for Barenboim in early stages of their careers. Pappano is a prime example and Thielemann was his assistant in some stage.

    • Conducting Grandpa says:

      Christian Thielemann, Philippe Jordan, Antonio Pappano ,Simone Young, Sebastian Weigle, Frédéric Chaslin, Domingo Hindoyan, Daniel Cohen, Asher Fisch, Omer Meir Wellber, Lahav Shani, Thomas Guggeis.

      I came up with these names in less than five minutes. Not a bad list at all… Who is missing?

      • David K. Nelson says:

        When I interviewed Maxim Vengerov for Fanfare magazine many (many) years ago, he spoke movingly of the positive effect a tongue lashing from Barenboim had on his approach to music and the Sibelius Concerto in particular.

        • Jobim75 says:

          Maybe they didn’t talk enough….. not sure Barenboim would be my first choice to ask about Sibelius…..

          • Russell Platt says:

            Well, he sure was great at Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms and Bruckner. We can leave Sibelius to Salonen.

    • Tamino says:

      There are so many more.
      Simone Young, Sebastian Weigle, etc etc etc.
      Yes he definitely is.

  • Paul Barte says:

    Hoping he’ll be back on the Podium for April RIng Cycle in Berlin!

  • Gustavo says:

    There’ll soon be a job opportunity for “young talent” in Berlin.

  • andrew says:

    Correction: “With Barenboim, it was always Barenboim first, last and centre stage.” Not a single concert or recording of his do I remember.

    • Alan says:

      And you went to how many, liking him so much? He’ll be remembered long after some of the anonymous character assassins posting from their mother’s houses that infect this and other sites

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      I’am not a big fan of him even if I have seen him many times as conductor or pianist. I have to say that I prerfer his brother in art Zubin and his sister in art Martha. But he’s a great artist. I have in cd the Verdi requiem he did 10 years ago with La Scala try it. Same thing for the Wagner-Listz piano album he recorded in the 80’s. it’s important. I was not there but I know that many likes what he did in Bayreuth in the 90’s. Don’t talk too much quickly.

    • Bone says:

      You are missing out if you don’t hear the work he is doing with the Staatskapelle. Truly magnificent, timeless recordings.

    • DrTeej says:

      If you can’t remember them perhaps you also have a neurological condition? You should get that checked out.

    • Peter Wolf says:

      Really ? See my just-posted comment about DB in concert in California.

    • Peter Wolf says:

      Nope. Disagree. I’ve seen him on stage with Staatskapelle where he kept pointing to the orchestra as the audience cheered and applauded him. He wanted the kudos passed to the players.

    • Ned Roarem says:

      I listened to the complete Songs Without Words of Mendelssohn by both Barenboim and Schiff. They were both without a drop of music. Notes, but no music.

  • David says:

    “newspapers have garnalded Daniel Barenboim”

    That sounds painful.

  • J Barcelo says:

    Barenboim is one of those musicians who I hope will take the time to write his memoirs. Think of it: he played for Furtwangler. The years when he was closely linked with Zuckerman, Perlman, Mehta and of course du Pre. He recorded with Barbirolli. What an astonishing legacy. It needs to be preserved.

  • Judy says:

    AMEN. the guy is an outstanding musician – we need more like him on the podium!

  • Glynne Williams says:

    I hope and pray that this is not the end for Daniel Barenboim. A remarkable musician and a remarkable man: who but Barenboim and Edward Said (taken from us far too soon) could have had that utter inspiration called the West-East Divan Orchestra? I’ll never forget their first, electrifying performance at the Proms. Barenboim is a man of deep humanity, of the sort we desperately lack in these days of extremism, political and cultural.

  • Don Ciccio says:

    His biggest legacy is restoring the Berlin Staatskapelle to prominence. I am not a big fan of his interpretations, and even as a pianist he was at his best when colaborating with strong personalities such as Barbirolli, Celibidache, or Klemperer, or in chamber music with equally distinguished colleagues.

    But what he realized is that the Staatskapelle had its own unique sound culture, that this is not another one of those technically proficient but faceless bands. He strived, and succeeded to preserve this sound, and that’s no small thing these days.

    Which is why I try to never miss his concerts with the Staatskapelle when in tour.

  • Gustavo says:

    I’ve often wondered why I associate Barenboim with Wagner but not at all with Mahler.

    • mmmmmkay says:

      Maybe you’re unfamiliar with his excellent recordings of Mahler 7 & 9 with the Staatskapelle and Mahler 5 with the CSO?

    • trumpetherald says:

      Actually,he did a lot of Mahler,especially in Chicago.Symphonies 1,5,7,9 and the Lied von der Erde.And all the song cycles.

    • J Barcelo says:

      Because he didn’t do much Mahler. The two recordings I have, of symphonies 5 and 7, are nothing special. He probably just doesn’t have a feel for Mahler – there’s nothing wrong with that – and perhaps wisely doesn’t perform music he doesn’t really like. Wish more conductors were more selective like that. And his Wagner Ring cycle is terrific!

    • Nicholas says:

      He’s on record saying he’s more of a Bruckner Guy than a Mahler Guy. If I had to subscribe to Plato’s notion of a Philosopher-King then Maestro Barenboim is a Musician-King. His talent is extraordinary and his humanity worth emulating.

    • Peter Wolf says:

      Why? Simple. Because he’s the greatest living Wagner conductor.

  • trumpetherald says:

    As a player who played under him……Well,he is a great musician in the romantic and post romantic rep..But i also witnessed appalling behaviour,abusive language and arrogance towards the players.Give me Kiril Petrenko anytime,both as musician and person.I wish him a speedy recovery and return to the podiumnevertheless.

  • Hal Sacks says:

    Excelllent Beethoven Triple Concerto. Barenboim piano and conducting the Divan with Yo Yo Ma and Anne Sophie Mutter.

  • freddynyc says:

    Indeed his treasure trove of unmemorable performances will be sorely missed…..

  • Philip F Myers says:

    Two Barenboims:
    pianist and conductor
    Pianist: I played with him once and he really stands alone in my experience as someone who had such a defined preparation and idea of how the composition should go that it was literally overpowering in the most positive way. Playing with him at the piano was a once in a lifetime experience.
    Conductor: He and Maestro Mehta were acquainted with the Furtwangler discography and from what I read had discussed siuch among themselves. They were both very analytical in their study and romantic in their approach. The recording of Bruckner Symphony 4 with Chicago long before he was musical director there has always been a waypost for me. Sp many unique ideas on that recording, still exciting for me every time I hear it. As is often said, he and Maestro Mehta are last of a breed. I have learned and enjoyed both so much in over the period of so many years.

    • Una says:

      Exactly! Saw Zubin Mehta conduct at the BBC Proms only this year. Very frail coming on very slowly with his walking stick, but then as soon as he sat and started conducting, another world! He and Danny Barenboim are the last of that generation in a music world and profession that has changed out of all recognition – never more so since the pandemic and no real work.

  • MR says:

    I was grateful for a colleague at Patelson’s who tipped me to how he was studying a score while standing in the side area ordinarily just for employees, observing him lost in thought being a study in musical intensity, like he was living either playing or conducting the music he was reading. A prayer for him.

    • Russell Platt says:

      At Patelson’s, now long gone. Priceless. What that place meant economically AND spiritually is a New York we will never get back.

  • Una says:

    Lovely tribute to Daniel, Norman.Yes, yesterday I felt I was reading a combination of obituaries and hate mail. He has been part of my musical education and throughout my modest career. He worked as conductor with three of my songong teachers – Heather Harper, Neil Howlett and Josephone Veasey. At their level, they didn’t have to work with Danny – or any perceived awkward conductor by the armchair internet critics – if they didn’t want to. But they all did, were personal friends as a result, and so did many more. We pray for a speedy recovery and that he can continue to contribute to both the music world and his humanitarian endeavours.

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    The hacks aren’t reading the release properly. DB hasn’t retired or given up or died. It says there will be less conducting and he will be resting . Maybe like Brendel a few years before he retired there will be a weeding out of the most tiring pieces, eg Hammerklavier

    There’s been a lot of lazy journalism. I’m sure all readers will be keen to hear latest news via SD

  • Peter Wolf says:

    Oh, and he’s also the greatest living Wagner conductor. Among his many accolades. Had the great pleasure years ago seeing him conduct the Staatskapelle in Orange County, CA. Schuman and Beethoven.Terrific.

  • Sarah Hearn-vonFoerster says:

    Hoping for his recovery as soon as possible! He is a symbol of progress and creativity!

  • Piano Lover says:

    “””He is a fighter all right!” but nothing will stop this neurological disease…Last Youtube I saw of him was disastrous.
    I cherish all his recordings.

  • Roger Rocco says:

    I first performed with the great maestro back in the early 1970s when he was a young appointed conductor of the CSO at Ravinia. He was about 26 and I a very young tubist age 19. The orchestra loved him so he eventually became their permanent conductor. There were many memorable performances but two are entrenched in me forever. Bartok, Concerto for Orchestra and Brahms 2nd Symphony. How fortunate we to have great music in our lives!

  • Rohan Shotton says:

    Clearly obituaries are premature, but nor is it helpful to use language describing ‘fighting’ and ‘beating’ what is clearly at the very least a significant condition. The ‘fight’ cliche implies that those who die (or even lose their conducting faculties) do so because they didn’t fight hard enough, which is clearly nonsense.

  • Zeev Mazor says:

    He is great musician….I wish him (and us!) his recovery and return to the musical stage!!

  • Ned Roarem says:

    Nevertheless, he is an enormous traitor to his people, who will never forget.